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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The cyclospora scare which bit into the nation’s strawberry sales won’t affect Tennessee’s 1996 crop, a University of Tennessee plant and soil scientist said Tuesday.

“Tennessee has an early season for strawberries and hasn’t actually produced any berries in more than six weeks,” Dr. Al Rutledge said.

Strawberries are one of Tennessee’s leading cash crops, generating about $1.5 million annually.

“Most strawberries sold in the U.S. at this time of year come from California,” Rutledge said.

Cyclospora is a single-cell parasite that attacks the small intestines. Although not fatal, it can cause diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and very painful stomach cramps. It is treated with antibiotics.

Epidemiologists found that all victims of cyclospora found in Houston, Texas, had eaten fresh strawberries. The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating but have drawn no conclusions.

Contact: Al Rutledge (423-974-7208)